Ronaldo departs: How Manchester United’s last 10 big-name departures have fared away from Old Trafford

Memphis Depay Barcelona forward Credit: Alamy
Memphis Depay Barcelona forward Credit: Alamy

Cristiano Ronaldo has had his Manchester United contract terminated by mutual consent, leaving the player free to fix himself up with a new club – but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. 

Ronaldo’s explosive interview with TalkTV’s Piers Morgan sent shockwaves through United and the end result saw the mutual termination of his contract.

Despite being 37, Ronaldo is still hoping to play at the highest level for a few more years and wants to add more trophies to his collection.

We’ve taken a look at the last 10 high-profile names who left Old Trafford and how they’ve fared since then.

Paul Pogba

After a divisive six-year spell in the Premier League, Pogba left United when his contract expired at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The midfielder then returned to his former club Juventus in an attempt to rediscover his best form and get his career back on track.

He played 45 minutes for Massimiliano Allegri’s team in a pre-season friendly against Mexican side Chivas before tearing the meniscus in his right knee. The France international underwent surgery and is yet to make a competitive appearance in 2022/23. 

Edinson Cavani

Cavani fell down the pecking order following Ronaldo’s return to United and joined Valencia on a free transfer in August 2022.

After failing to score in his first three appearances for the club, he netted a brace in their 2-2 draw with Elche in La Liga and has now scored in four of Europe’s top five leagues.

The 35-year-old then followed that up with goals against Sevilla and Mallorca before picking up an injury against Barcelona.

Juan Mata

Mata made 285 appearances for United during his eight-and-a-half years at the club but was released at the end of the 2021/22 season.

Despite being linked with a shock move to Leeds United, the Spain international ultimately joined Turkish giants Galatasaray on a free transfer.

He’s yet to establish himself as a key player for Okan Buruk’s side and has started just one Super Lig game at the time of writing.

The 34-year-old has also made three substitute appearances in the league and came off the bench to score his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Karagumruk, who are managed by Italy legend Andrea Pirlo. 

Alexis Sanchez

Having failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford, Sanchez spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Inter Milan before joining them on a free transfer.

The Chile international often had a bit-part role at Inter but did score seven Serie A goals in their title-winning campaign in 2020/21 and also netted the winner against Juventus in the Italian Super Cup. 

After his Inter contract was terminated by mutual consent in August 2022, he joined Ligue 1 side Marseille on a free transfer.

The 33-year-old has already become a fan favourite at the Stade Velodrome due to his work rate and has also scored seven goals in his first 17 appearances for the club.

Romelu Lukaku

After being deemed surplus to requirements by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Lukaku completed a £74m move to Inter Milan in the summer of 2019.

The striker then rediscovered his best form under Antonio Conte, scoring 64 goals in 95 appearances over the following two seasons. He was also named Serie A Footballer of the Year after firing Inter to the title in 2020/21. 

His performances for Inter saw him complete a £97.5m move to Chelsea in 2021, but he failed to justify that price tag and netted just eight Premier League goals in 2021/22.

The Belgium international returned to Inter on a season-long loan deal but has been plagued by injury problems in 2022/23.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Despite scoring for United in the 2017 Europa League final, Mkhitaryan moved to Arsenal a few months later in a deal that saw Sanchez move in the opposite direction.

The Armenia international got a hat-trick of assists on his Arsenal debut but failed to maintain that form and had his contract cancelled by mutual consent in 2020, allowing him to join Roma on a free transfer.

He registered 29 goals and 28 assists during his time at Roma and helped them win the UEFA Europa Conference League in 2021/22.

The 33-year-old then joined Inter Milan on a free transfer and has become one of the first names on the teamsheet for Simone Inzaghi.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

After being replaced by Lukaku, Ibrahimovic left United and joined Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy on a free transfer in March 2018.

The striker won a host of individual awards in America and scored 53 goals in 58 appearances for LA Galaxy, including a sensational strike against Toronto.

“I came, I saw, I conquered,” he tweeted after leaving the club and returning to AC Milan in December 2019. “Thank you LA Galaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans – you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome.”

He’s since proved that he can still perform at the top level, scoring 36 goals in 74 appearances for Milan and helping them win the Serie A title in 2021/22.

The 41-year-old is currently on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament injury, but he is working on a return to full fitness and has no plans to retire just yet. 

Wayne Rooney

After becoming United’s all-time leading goalscorer, Rooney decided to return to his boyhood club Everton in the summer of 2017.

The striker scored 11 goals in 40 appearances during his second stint at Goodison Park but looked a shadow of his former self and joined MLS side DC United in 2018.

He produced some moments of magic in America, including a sensational halfway-line goal against Orlando City and an amazing assist against the same opponents.

The 37-year-old returned to England as a player-coach with Derby County in January 2020 and scored seven goals in 35 appearances before hanging his boots in January 2021.

Memphis Depay

Depay scored just two Premier League goals during a disastrous 18-month stint at United and was sold to Lyon in January 2017.

The Netherlands international bounced back and rediscovered his best form in France, registering 76 goals and 55 assists in 178 appearances for the Ligue 1 side. 

He also helped Lyon reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2019/20, a feat United haven’t achieved since 2010/11.

The 28-year-old joined Barcelona on a free transfer in 2021 and scored 13 goals in his debut season but has since fallen behind Robert Lewandowski in the pecking order.

Memphis Depay celebrates a goal in Elche v Barcelona - Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, Elche Credit: Alamy
Memphis Depay celebrates a goal in Elche v Barcelona - Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, Elche Credit: Alamy

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Schweinsteiger fell out of favour under Jose Mourinho and was allowed to join MLS side Chicago Fire on a free transfer in March 2017.

During his time in America, he transformed himself into a top-class centre-back and earned selection for MLS All-Stars in both 2017 and 2019.

The former Germany international also scored eight goals in his 92 appearances for the club before announcing his retirement in October 2019.

READ MORE: Five reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo wants end to second spell at Man Utd after explosive Piers Morgan interview

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